Empowering you with knowledge - helping you make the right decisions
We have set out a brief overview of the procedure involved relating to marriage breakdown including changes resulting from the Children and Families Act 2014 which came into effect in April 2014. Each case however is unique and many different factors can influence the basic procedure. We at Allwyn Sanger Solicitors will keep you informed of each step involved, explain if and why additional steps may be required and keep you appraised of the likely time, cost and further steps required.
The information below is subject to change following the government's announcement of plans to reform the law, introducing the much called for no fault divorce. Notably the ability to defend a petition for divorce will be removed, meaning that once one spouse issues a petition, the end of the marriage will be a fait accompli!
Note that we also have a special section on Religious Divorce.
A Divorce Petition is the start of the formal process for dissolving a marriage. This is now issued under the 2014 legislation at the Family Courts.
Changes to the Divorce Process
11 divorce centres have been created within England and Wales. Legal advisers are now empowered to consider decree nisi applications in uncontested divorces issued at designated Divorce Centres.
Some Divorce Centres are already fully operational. The transfer of cases is being phased into the centres. Allwyn Sanger is based within the London and South East Divorce Centre. From Monday 29th June 2015 all new divorce and financial remedy applications are required to be sent to this Centre based in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk.
The Divorce Centre is a point of entry. If a hearing is required this can be listed at a local hearing centre. Parties to a case are able to indicate where the hearing should take place – often locally or central to where the parties reside.
The Petitioner – is the person who issues the Petition.
The Respondent – Is the other spouse against who the Petition is issued.
To be able to issue divorce you must:
- Have been married for at least one year.
- Your marriage must be legally recognised by the English courts (be registered formally by the state or country where you married)
- One of the parties must be habitually resident or domiciled in the UK and
- The Petition must be on the basis of one of the following grounds:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- 2 years separation with consent
- 5 years separation without consent
Statement of Arrangements for Children
This form is no longer required - it was previously used to ensure that the children's welfare was cared for.
Acknowledgement of Service
This document is sent to the Respondent to acknowledge receipt of the Petition. The Acknowledgement of Service is in question and answer format. If you wish to defend a petition you would record your intentions to do so on this form and/or Cross Petition if required.
Usually the Respondent has 7 days in which to acknowledge the petition.
Application for Decree Nisi & Statement in Support
Once the Acknowledgement is received the Petitioner can proceed with his or her application. The Petitioner must file an application for Decree Nisi. The application must be accompanied by a Statement in Support of Divorce to confirm that the details given in the Petition are correct.
There is no court fee for the Decree nisi.
Pronouncement of Decree Nisi
The court sets a date for the pronouncement of the Nisi. A certificate stating that the Judge believes that you are entitled to a decree of divorce and pronounces this first stage of divorce complete.
At this stage you are still legally married to the Respondent and will remain each others next of kin.
A Will is advisable at the start of a marriage breakdown to ensure that your assets are left to those you would want to benefit and not go automatically to a separated spouse. Please refer to the Wills & Probate section.
Application to the Court for Decree Absolute
You must wait a minimum period of 6 weeks from receiving the Decree Nisi to apply for a Decree Absolute.
The application for Decree Absolute is normally delayed until distribution of the marriage assets are concluded.
If you are the Respondent you can make the application for Decree Absolute provided more than 3 months have expired since the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi. An ‘on notice’ application must be made and the only real defence to the application would be that to dissolve the marriage would cause the Petitioner grave financial hardship.
The Marriage is formally at an end.
If you have an existing Will giving a bequest to a spouse this part of the Will will fail unless it states that it is intended that the bequest is to survive a divorce. You should consider rewriting your Will. Please refer to the Wills & Probate section.
After Decree Absolute either party can remarry should they desire.